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You Belong to Angkar

Sophal Leng Stagg, Cambodian Survivor

At some point, they tell us, “You are now belong to Angkar. You belong to Angkar, nobody else. You will do what we say, and you will have what we give you.” So they made us call our mother and our father as one of—comrade, you would say. We are not allowed to call them, acknowledge them that you are my daddy or you are my mother. Everybody is now belong to Angkar, and you have to listen to what they say. You are not worth of anything unless they give us what they think that we deserve. They want us to strip of what we used to have, the custom that we used to have; now they say it’s no good, it’s bad that we—“The person that are still calling Mommy, calling Daddy, are now is the enemy, because we tell you that is no longer good. We tell you that now you belong to nobody except Angka, and you have to obey and do as they say.”

It made me feel that that is wrong. I don’t believe that that is right, that I—I call my daddy, and at that time I called him Pa, and I called my mother Ma. And I understand that that’s the city people calling, so I change my tone to call my dad Bok, and then I called my mom My, as if the farmer or the poor people, you would say—the farmer people call their mom and dad. It’s no longer Mommy and Daddy. But I know that it’s bad, but I have to do what they told me. Not that they kill me, but they kill entire family, and I don’t want anything at all to happen to my mom and dad, because I saw it happen. I saw the whole family had disappeared. The whole family disappeared, even the baby: the grandmother, the mother, the father, everybody gone. They took the whole entire family on the cart and disappear. Never heard again. And so you start to get frightened, but yet at that time, I know that that—they can change my appearance, they can change the way I call my mother, but it doesn’t change what’s inside. My inside, my parents mean everything to me, and I was raised that way and I cannot change the way they want me to change in my soul. But in a way, I keep that inside, and I always show them what they want to see.